The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday scheduled a March 5, 2019, special election to fill the board seat left vacant by the resignation of Ref Rodriguez, but the board declined to immediately appoint a temporary representative to the post.
Rodriguez stepped down in late July after pleading guilty to conspiracy and other charges for laundering campaign donations from family and friends.
There was little debate among board members on the need to call the special election, although there was some discussion of holding the vote earlier — on Jan. 22 — instead of waiting for the March 5 date, coinciding with elections in other Los Angeles County cities.
There was more extensive discussion, however, about the possibility of appointing a temporary board member to fill Rodriguez’s seat until a new member is elected.
Board member Scott Schmerelson nominated Jackie Goldberg, a former LAUSD board member, Los Angeles City Council member and state legislator, to fill the post.
“The constituents of Board District 5 endured a tainted election in 2015 and have suffered the absence of a legitimate office holder since July 1, 2015, and therefore immediately deserve a respected and experienced voice and representation on the governing board of the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Schmerelson wrote in his motion nominating Goldberg.
Board member George McKenna backed Goldberg’s nomination, saying the district could go another year without a representative, assuming the March special election advances to a May runoff.
Goldberg, 73, spoke to the board, saying she wasn’t interested in filling the post long-term.
But she pointed to her experience serving on the board during a recession that prompted massive budget cuts.
“I hope if you appoint me I can help you … by sharing my experience of what it takes to make those terrible decisions,” she said.
Her proposed appointment, however, was rejected, with only McKenna and Schmerelson voting in favor.
Board member Nick Melvoin offered a competing resolution, calling on residents of the district to nominate candidates to fill the post on an interim basis. The District 5 seat represents areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake.
Schmerelson dismissed that idea, saying it would result in hundreds of people seeking the appointment, creating an extensive interview/vetting process that would delay representation for the district.
Melvoin denied that the process would be that lengthy, but said it would give the community input into the process. He called for the decision to be made by September.
The board deadlocked 3-3 on Melvoin’s motion.